Last week, I went out to the factory floor to see how we were doing building a critical order for a new customer. From a distance, I didn’t recognize the person packing the units at the end of the line. When I realized who it was, I had to laugh. It was our head of sales. He had jumped in to help get the order out in 24 hours as we had promised. I laughed because I knew there was no way our competition could ever match this level of commitment.
Have you ever noticed that there are some teams who just know how to win? Companies that outpace their rivals, sports teams that dominate their competition or military units that seem to do the impossible. There is something special about these teams that make them unstoppable.
As leaders, our job is to build and lead our teams. Leading teams is one thing but how do you build a team? How do you form a group of employees that will be resilient, persistent and consistently effective? What makes a team unstoppable?
Let me suggest that there are 4 important things to consider when building a high performing team.
Select individuals who have complementary skill sets. This is especially important for small teams. Everyone should have a specific expertise that is required to accomplish the team’s objective. Take, for example, Navy Seals. In each team, there are specialists like medics, snipers, breachers, jumpmasters, dive masters or language experts. Even though there are some overlapping skills, the experts are relied on by the team for success in specific areas of the mission. Look at the team you are assembling. Do they have complementary skill sets? Do they have the combined skills to complete the objective?
Select individuals who have achieved a high level of competency. As a former Naval Officer who served on nuclear submarines, I appreciate the brilliance of the Navy’s qualification program. To be promoted or to assume certain duties, you had to go through a rigorous qualification process. This meant everyone you served with had achieved a high level of competency. This established mutual respect across the team and built a high level of trust. You knew your teammate had the skills to watch your back. To build a great team, you should carefully consider the competency of each team member.
Select individuals who have proved themselves under adversity. As I wrote in the article, The One Trait your CEO Wants You to Have, persistent people are extremely valuable to the success of any team. Look for those special employees who can step up and deliver results regardless of the adverse circumstances. Look for people who don’t quit and have a proven history of perseverance. Look for the engineer who worked two jobs and went to night school for six years to graduate, the veteran who served two combat tours or the plant manager who worked their way up from the shop floor. These are the people who are going to make a difference when things get tough.
Select individuals who are unselfish and have a “mission first” mindset. The success of unstoppable teams resides in the singular focus on the mission. “Mission first” employees understand the objective takes priority over individual goals or career aspirations. Like our sales manager jumping in to help manufacturing, these employees will do whatever it takes to complete the mission. This mindset creates a culture where individuals hold each other mutually accountable to the team’s goal. There’s little room for office politics and egos when the priority is winning.
The objective of leadership is to direct a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. The most important part of that objective is choosing the right people who will make up the team. Selecting employees with the right characteristics, experience and mindset can make the job of winning easier. Unstoppable teams are uncommon because building a great team isn’t easy. You need to find the right people with complementary skills sets who have achieved a high level of competency. Look for individuals who have proven themselves under adversity and can adopt a “mission first” mindset. Putting these people together and leading them well is the key to lasting success.